The kitchen is one of the most frequently used rooms in the home. Over time we develop patterns of usage which we come to accept as the most practical way to function in the space. These patterns of usage are not always conscious choices; moreover, usage is often dictated by the kitchen’s design and layout (and possibly a few strange habits). As a kitchen designer and fitter, I am often asked for advice and tips for improving a kitchen’s layout and functionality. Obviously each kitchen is different and therefore, it is not possible to offer advice that will work in every application, but there are some general tips that are worth considering when re-working a kitchen’s layout:
- Whose Kitchen Is It?
If you are designing a fitted kitchen for someone other than yourself, it’s worth taking a little time to understand their preferences, personal style, cooking style and type of storage requirements, as this should influence the layout and material types used in the design.
- What is Practically Possible?
Before you begin radically changing a Fitted kitchens layout, you need to know that there are often practical limitations on where some components can be positioned. Probably the most common of these is the kitchen sink. The laws of gravity dictate that water will normally flow downwards; therefore it is necessary to insure that the sink isn’t positioned in such a location as to prohibit this natural function. For example, if your desire is to place the sink on the opposite side of the room, you will need to determine the route by which water will leave the sink drain and travel to the source of the drainage outlet (often via an external wall) while maintaining a constant downward flow.
- Dishwashers & Washing Machines
With reference to the above, dishwashers and washing machines differ in that, the waste water is pumped from the machine (still with limitations of distance). However this will allow for more flexibility in the kitchen’s design with regard to positioning.
- Who likes Washing Up
Personally I find washing up to be the most mundane of tasks, and at the very least, I appreciate an opportunity to gaze out of the window while I do it. Most kitchens are designed this way; it’s a characteristic worth retaining whenever possible.
- Where the Sink drainer goes
If the kitchen sink is to be positioned near to an adjacent wall, have the drainer side towards the corner as the corner will be less frequently used, and it will free-up usable work surface area. As a general rule, try to keep the sink drainer towards the least used side.
- Where’s the Cooker
The cooker is often the focal point of the kitchen not only visually but practically also. Correct positioning is essential for a well functioning kitchen. The main factor to consider is safety of use. Try to position the cooker so that access to (and around) it, isn’t inhibited by other kitchen furniture or fittings. Avoid placing cookers behind doors so as to prevent potential accidents caused by people entering the kitchen unaware. Insure that there is suitable work surface near the cooker so that hot items can be rested quickly. Consider the route of air-ducting if a vented extraction system is to be used.
- There’s never Enough Workspace
If the kitchen has limited potential work surface area, careful use of the space is essential. Try to envisage the kitchen being used to cook a large meal where there will be a need to carry out a variety of tasks simultaneously. Consider integrating appliances such as microwaves and coffee machines into wall units or shelving to free-up the surface beneath them.
- Opening Doors.
While the master chef is simmering the latest offering at the cooker in the newly fitted kitchen, he/she will always appreciate being able to access the contents of nearby cupboards without having to move around a door they have opened in order to see inside.
Wherever units or appliances meet at corners (right angles) insure that there is adequate space for doors and drawers to open without being inhibited by opposing knobs and handles (a common mistake when working a design on paper).
- Hot & Cold
Avoid placing fridges next to cookers and ovens or other heat sources such as radiators. You could consider using a plinth heater as practical alternative to a wall mounted radiator, if it helps the design.
- Lighting & Electrics
Consider where electrical kitchen appliances are to be used (both fitted and free standing) and allow power points for them in the kitchen’s spec. Ensure that all electrical and gas work complies with building and safety regulations.
Try to strike a good balance between the amount of natural light entering the space and the colours used in the scheme, although various types of artificial lighting can be incorporated, it’s less desirable to have to rely on them during daytime